Bilingualism - 3 perspectives
¡Hola! This is our first blog post - welcome, bienvenidos! We decided to launch our blog today (September 15) to celebrate the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. What better way to celebrate than by discussing bilingualism?
For our first blog posts, we have prepared a three-part series highlighting different bilingual perspectives. The first that we'll share is the household where both parents are bilingual. Both Luz and I are fortunate enough to have this be our situation. You may consider this being the only way to raise a truly bilingual familia and that it is probably muy facil (so easy). However, believe it or not, because of our careers (click here for more about us) there are times when English becomes the dominant language and we have to make the conscientious effort to use Spanish, especially while our children grow.
The second blog post will be about the one parent one language household. I have a childhood friend who is making the focused effort to raise her children bilingually, even though her spouse is monolingual.
The third post will be about the monolingual household that desires to raise the child(ren) bilingually. Many of the familias that have joined us for our Bilingual Babies programs have reported that they know some Spanish, but aren’t fluent or don’t feel comfortable choosing to speak Spanish because they don’t feel proficient enough. You’ll discover, in this third post, that it is more about consistency and quality versus quantity. We’ll provide some suggestions – other than just joining us for Bilingual Babies – that can help foster a bilingual environment even if the household isn’t already bilingual. Without further ado….
Q & A
Luz D. Tamayo
Where were you born?
A - I am originally from Medellin, Colombia
What language(s) were spoken at home; school?
A - At home, Spanish was the only language spoken and English was only spoken at school.
What language(s) do/did you speak as a parent?
A - When my children were small, we only spoke to them in Spanish. After they started school, we spoke both Spanish and English. Once they got older (middle school and high school age) they preferred English, but we tried to reinforce the Spanish language.
As parents, we speak mostly Spanish to our kids, but they prefer to answer in English.
Besides language, what other cultural experiences was/were your child(ren) exposed to growing up?
A - When the kids were young, we tried traveling to Colombia at least every other year. Once they got older, we decided to open up their knowledge of different countries so they could gain cultural awareness. As first-generation Colombian's, we keep our traditions, our values and beliefs. In doing so, we are hoping that our children will follow our traditions and pass them on to their children. As a family, we are very much a tradition-oriented family.
Was the decision to raise bilingually easy? Was it a mutual agreement?
A - Bringing up our children in a bilingual environment was a mutual agreement, but as they get older it becomes tougher because they have immersed themselves into the American culture where they have been brought up. We currently live in a community with limited diversity and therefore our children have had no other choice than assimilate in order to fit in well. I believe it is up to the parents to be consistent and persistent in how they want to raise their children. As parents, we try to make our children aware that being bilingual is a plus and that doing so will open more doors in their futures. This has already been fruitful for one of our sons who recently graduated college. He attained a job due to his bilingual abilities in English and Spanish.
Any advice for parents who want to raise a bilingual family?
A - My advice to parents is to be consistent and persistent, but most importantly, try to plant the seed to love being bilingual and bicultural while feeling proud of it. It is important to understand that being bilingual is not a disadvantage, but rather an advantage in a child’s future.
Comments, questions, suggestions – let us know! We’d love to hear from you. Are you raising a bilingual familia? What are some of the things that you are doing to foster bilingualism and/or biculturalism? For more about our programs, go to our website.